Best Fiction and Writing Blogs


The best fiction and writing blog posts from around the ‘net, all guaranteed to make you a literary cult figure. Compiled by bob.

Bob MayerGive Your Protagonist An Anomaly
Jami GoldStory Description: Finding the Right Balance
LionAroundWritingThe Perfect Story
June Lorraine RobertsChain gang: authors/writers talk about their work
GeekritiqueThe Most Anticipated Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2016
Nicholas ConleyThe Writer’s Role in Society
CreativeWriter3 Quotes, 3 Days Challenge
Tony TulathimutteHow to name your fictional characters

Stan Lee: the greatest storyteller in history?

Stan LeePhoto by Luigi Novi

Sci-fi/fantasy writer Damien Walter makes his case in The Guardian:

Before Lee, heroes were all supermen, or strutting John Waynes, who triumphed through strength or ruthlessness. Lee’s heroes triumph through brains, invention, innovation and most of all, SCIENCE. It’s all oddly prescient of what geek culture would become 50 years later, with hackers and tech giants wielding enormous power for good and ill. Given the vast popularity of Marvel among geeks, it’s not inconceivable that Lee helped inspire a lot of those people who are reshaping our world today.

But Stan Lee’s stories are all just weird fantasy and make-believe! They’re not real. Yes, but as we move from what physicist Michio Kaku calls “the age of scientific discovery to the age of scientific mastery”, Lee’s super-science fantasies seem less preposterous and more prophetic. Like all great mythical worlds, the Marvel universe speaks to us in metaphors, symbols and other non-literal truths. And as the dreamer who brought these modern myths into reality, Stan Lee may well be remembered as one of literature’s greatest heroes.

Lee’s other radical innovation was to give his characters depth. Marvel super-heroes had to fight self-doubt before they could fight the bad guys. Some, such as Benjamin J. Grimm, felt their powers were a curse. And most startling of all, Marvel super-heroes sometimes fought each other, and even changed sides. When I discovered Marvel comics as a pre-teen, I felt like I’d found an illustrated guide to many of life’s mysteries.

And Marvel stories were intelligent, insightful, and full of delicious twists. Fantastic Four 51 is a prime example. The story, titled “This Man, This Monster,” was not just an exciting tale but emotionally compelling. Such a plot and character arc could only come from an authentic and serious talent. The reason Stanley Lieber changed his name to Stan Lee was because, as Lee himself put it, “I felt someday I’d write ‘The Great American Novel’ and I didn’t want to use my real name on these silly little comics.”

Those who turn their noses at comics (or pulp fiction or sci-fi and fantasy) are missing some great, worthwhile stories. As the recently departed Umberto Eco observed, “Mickey Mouse can be perfect in the sense that a Japanese haiku is.” A well-crafted story is to be appreciated for what it is, no matter the genre.

Quote of the day

Brian Boyd

“Everything is humanities. The sciences are a form of the humanities. They involve traditions of inquiry; they involve social engagement with ideas. They do not happen with a naked brain going out and encountering a nonhuman world. And the better we understand ourselves, the better we can do science, as well. So I don’t see them—the sciences and the humanities—as being at all different.” Brian Boyd, author and Professor of English at the University of Auckland.

The spirit of C. P. Snow lives!

Review of Former


The world A. E. Stueve creates in his just-released novel Former is warped, chilling, and bristling with menace. Battered and terrified from the Infection War, the survivors distrust one another. Their greatest fear is of formers, people who were once infected with a man-made disease that takes over the mind and fills the victim with one over-powering urge, to attack and eat other people. A shadowy and powerful pharmaceutical firm, Profine, which invented the cure, now houses the formers in compounds where it protects them and works to return them to something close to normal lives.

But the jumpy population outside Profine’s protective compounds is vulnerable to canny and unscrupulous media manipulators. One popular blogfeed is Zex Starshine’s Unreality, where master rabble-rouser Zex Starshine beguiles and horrifies his audience with startling revelations about corporate greed, government conspiracy, and the secret threat of another former uprising. (What are those people planning in those sprawling compounds?)

I know what you’re thinking — this horrifying world sounds like today’s venomous climate of mutual demonization and seething hatreds. In both our world and the world of Former, the Internet, that impossible-to-kill cockroach of misinformation overload, fairly throbs with voices screaming about what “those people” are up to now.

For Billy Dodge, the protagonist of Former, things go from dystopian to apocalyptic when he storms out of a group therapy session for formers like himself and ends up accused of complicity in murder. His only chance of clearing himself is to trust the mysterious figures within Profine. Billy has already lost much, including his wife, who killed herself rather than succumb to the dread disease. His brush with death and survivor guilt have made Billy world-weary, yet he is driven to prove to himself he’s still alive, sometimes in ways that only make things worse.

This novel manages to be both bleak and breathtaking, grim and darkly comical. It’s impossible not to sympathize with Billy Dodge despite his impulsiveness and semi-suicidal urges and bad choices. Billy’s determination to convince himself he’s not only a human being, but still himself, despite the disease that once made him a monster, reminds me of the works of Philip K. Dick.

I’ll make a prediction: This book will be used in writing classes to illustrate the right way to create an unforgettable atmosphere, one that perfectly suits the story that emerges from it. Highly recommended.

You may also be interested in the reviews at Kirkus and Foreword Reviews.